The organizational structure of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) is highly political and bureaucratic. The maintenance of the core humanitarian tenets of impartiality, neutrality, efficiency and accountability is a constant challenge in the current political crisis.
Eight months after the devastated earthquake, a long-awaited National Reconstruction Authority has been established as an apex body to oversee the entire task of reconstruction and rehabilitation in the country. It’s in our vivid memory that the Authority was dissolved some 5 months ago as the Nepali Congress led government could not replace the ordinance with a regular bill passed by Parliament within 60 days due to interparty conflict.
Now the Authority has been established with political consensus, but the structure has been made highly political and bureaucratic – Advisory Body, Directive Body, Executive Body and District Coordination Committee. The CEO of the Authority chairs the Executive Body and is subjected to the political masters and politically appointed experts among others in the Advisory and Directive Bodies. The decision making processes in the Authority as provisioned in the ACT is cumbersome. The CEO will have a constant challenge to keep the Authority above all political interfering. This is the first hurdle the Authority needs to clear to fast-track the reconstruction response.
Another issue is fund-flow and absorptive capacity. The current practice is slow and weak. The first-trimester installment of the government does not reach to the districts until the second-trimester, and so on. The absorptive capacity is less than 50%. The earthquake response is not business as usual and we are running out of time. It took months to reach the people with NRs. 15,000 provided by the government. I met villagers in Gatlang VDC of Rasuwa district where they have not received NRs. 10,000 as winterization support. This is largely caused by inefficient fund-flow mechanism. This is the second hurdle the Authority needs to clear to fast-track the reconstruction response.
Another issue is lack of clarity in permanent housing policies, particularly the modalities, external support, displacement and settlement, approvals and government subsidies and deductions. There are different understandings among different agencies at different levels. Permanent housing is the first priority of the communities and there are external agencies prepared to complement the government effort.We need better clarity and efficient approval processes. This is the third hurdle the Authority needs to clear to fast-track the reconstruction response.
Above all the Authority must take all key stakeholders including development partners into confidence for coordinated response. In fact we do not lack resources, what we lack is proper management of resources in light of the above three hurdles in particular. I can visualize the funds will increase if we can deliver on time. In this context, response architecture is a critical factor to fast-track the reconstruction response.
Dr. Prabin Manandhar is an expert of international development. Currently, he is working as Country Director of The Lutheran World Federation. He is also a visiting faculty at the Kathmandu University. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org